Friday, December 30, 2011

The art of asking for help

the offending piece - the flash messed up the colours but you get the picture

If you’ve been following The Bag of Hope story, , with the Amandwe Support Group, you’ll know “Vukusakhe” is Zulu for “stand up and do it for yourself.” An admirable sentiment under any circumstances, but more admirable considering the life these women face on a daily basis. They are proud and will not ask for handouts - they want to help themselves and the orphans in their area. These fine women make good role models - they are humorous, strong and determined. If they don’t know how to do something, they ask to be taught and they learn.
And in this I could take a lesson from them. I have always been a poor student. I too often confidently think “I can do that.” Some times this is rather unwise and turns out a dismal failure. Other times I hit lucky and it all falls in to place. But too often I just am bull-headed and obstinately keep trying to do something that’s not working.
A few days back I started on my new art project of collaboration with the Amandwe Support Group with enthusiasm. I chose the first 2 fabric landscapes and got down to prepping the wooden panels. Then came the time to start painting. Painting 1 started off fine but on day 2, I hit a snag. It just wasn’t working. I scraped, I painted over, I changed colours. All I managed to do was dig myself deeper in to the mire. Painting 2 sat there prepped and ready to go but I ignored it. I was getting myself in to a funk after a few days of this.
Then I set off on my daily walk with my friend and fellow artist, Rosemary of . As we strode around town, I told her about my problem with the first painting and my excitement about my idea for the second one. Rosemary looked at me as if I‘d lost my marbles and said, “Anne, why don‘t you just leave the first painting alone for a while and start on the second. You‘re excited about that one.” Well, hello and duh me. Later at home I started telling Lee the same saga, and before I got to Rosemary‘s pearls of wisdom, he looked at me all long-suffering like and said, “Anne, drop the first one for a while and do the second one. There‘s no order you have to do them in.”
So, why couldn’t I see this simple fact days ago. I’d got myself so focused and obsessed with the first painting, I couldn‘t see the forest for the trees. If I’d asked a few days back for feedback, I’d not have wasted those few days of obfuscation.
So, please feel free to stop by during the next couple of months and see how I’m progressing. I’m all fired up about this project but I obviously need a someone “with clear eyes” to whack me upside the head and say, “What are you doing?“ A good dose of reality on occasion is not a bad thing.
I never make New Year’s resolutions but I think I will try a tad harder to ask for advice on how to do something, instead of just doing it. It might eliminate the all too often “OOPS,” that follows. But, I am calling the project, Vukusakhe” because, well, I do usually just stand up and do it for myself.
Wishing you and yours a peaceful and prosperous 2012 - it’s going to be a grand art year!

FYI : I’m chronicling the progress on my gallery face book page and am starting a page on my website about it…if you’re interested, go to  or

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday jollies

I will not blog this week - I think a simple "Have a wonderful celebration" ... for whatever you celebrate ... suffices, and may we all find peace, health and happiness in 2012.
Thank you for following and reading my blog. I hope you will continue to do so in the New Year and help spread the word.
Peace and love!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The art of simple happiness

Geordie approves of the new fire place

We recently had a gas fire installed in our apartment. It’s in the lounge which is the middle of the 3 rooms. The idea epitomizes cozy during snowy winter days - to sit in front of the fire, a glass of red wine in hand and both cats curled up… sheer bliss. The first day it was snugly fitted in to place, the man said, “Burn it a while to clear the oil off.” It wasn’t a very cold day, so five minutes after I lit the fire, I was boiling hot and then the fire alarm started going off. I ran around banging the damn alarm every time it went off (regularly) and opened all the windows. I felt like I was Nixon - fire on and the air conditioning going at the same time. Eventually peace reigned but the place was a furnace. This fire is hot stuff. We haven’t had to leave it on for long periods before the apartment is toasty. At last we’ve got a touch of colder weather - this morning Lee lit the fire and it warmed the house, but just comfortable, not heat stroke stuff. How happy we were!
Over breakfast Lee - who is puppy dog happy at having 2 full days off - and I talked about what to have for dinner. Pork chop cooked in garlic, orange zest and juice was the decision, green salad and half an avocado. The cats chased shadows and gobbled up their treats - the l-lysine Chaussettes needs to control her feline herpes, Geordie’s brewers yeast for fleas - medicine to anyone else, they just don’t know it.
I drank my coffee and I thought about going to work on my new art project. It is a challenge, an excitement and I keep thinking about it - ways to improve it, change my mind a hundred times about some aspect of it, whoop with joy at the thought of it -  how happy is that?
All this deep thinking so early in the day? But it set me off on a tangent, what is happiness? An artist friend of mine, Bob Hart, did a fabulous series called, “The Missing Letter.” I am delighted to own one of these masterpieces - we traded art.  The series is a fascinating look at mankind. Each painting featured string figures - mostly without arms, an animal or 2 and the alphabet with a letter missing. The idea is most folks keep saying, “If only I had ….., life would be better.” What they don’t realize is if you have your loved ones, your animals, your home and your health, you have everything you need. The lack of arms symbolized how people don’t know how to ask for help. His website is
I have everything I need. I have led an extremely rich life. I don’t have money but I have traveled all my life. I’ve lived through extraordinary times, lived in fascinating countries, made steadfast friends of all nationalities, faiths and colour. I have my loved ones, my animals, home and health - and the cherry on top, I do what I love to earn a living.
And, even if my home is a small 3-room apartment, I now have a fireplace to sit in front of and drink a glass of red wine. Ain’t life grand? The Roman writer, Syrus, said, “No man is happy unless he believes he is.” I guess that can apply to women as well?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Art of Collaboration

Some of the tools I'll be using, oh my, me and a drill?

Collaboration, or working together, dominates my mind these days. I am about to embark on a brand new art project with the Amandwe Support Group in KwaZulu Natal & The Bag of Hope They have done their bit and now it’s all up to me. It’s a pretty scary, and exciting, prospect. And I am so looking forward to immersing myself in this over the next few months.

But this working together towards a common goal got me thinking. I am very big on working with other artists, businesses or anyone really, to further my art/business/town. I think some of it stems from going to all-girls boarding schools at a young age - the first time I was 9, it was not a match made in heaven, so the less said the better. Then at the ripe old age of 11, I went off to another school. This was much better, my older sister was already there and a number of my friends from my small town were also enrolled. I was as happy as can be - made life long friendships and learned strong values and liberal ideas.

We all also learned at a young age that we could achieve success at whatever exciting venture someone dreamed up - good and bad - if we worked as a team. One girl distracts the authority figure and rest sneak off on a daring adventure. We had a high success rate, but naturally, some failures as well. Just like real life. We never lost our individuality, nor the strong influence our parents exerted on us, but boarding school sure shaped my life in more ways than I could have realized at that tender and wonderfully, silly age. And since the launch of face book, I am reconnecting with many of my class mates from school - now strong, independent ladies living all over the world. What a treat!

Americans pride themselves as being highly individual characters and sometimes have trouble seeing the benefits of working as a group - Congress springs to mind as an extreme example. However, we’ll not go there. In this economy, I think it’s pretty obvious - for instance, I can’t afford hundreds of dollars on adverts, but if a group of us get together and each put in a small amount, we can advertise. Or if we can show people outside our area all we have to offer in one place, we become a much more interesting prospect. And so on … I’ve never felt I’m in competition with other artists. We each have our individual, unique style - and everyone has different preferences and tastes - and there’s the obvious conclusion, we’ll all get a slice of the pie. If there are different things to see, different styles of art to buy, concerts to attend, nice places to eat and sleep - more people will come.

So, meet the Art Ramble in Milford - our permanent, self-guided studio tour. Here we’re clustering our art-related businesses, listing events in town and a map to show how everything is in walking distance. Please check out the website and bookmark it! And let me know what you think… feedback’s always good

Meantime, while the Art Ramble is getting built up and we all promote each other with enthusiasm, I am working on my African collaboration art project. Do stop in and see how I’m doing whenever you can. I’m like a pup wagging it’s tail with happiness and excitement. It will take my art and imagination to new levels. I always did love a challenge!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The art of music

What I would give to play music, or even be able to sing would be nice. I open my mouth to yodel a few notes and kids run screaming to their mothers. It might seem strange for someone who has the gift of creating art well enough to make a living from it, to envy another talent. I appreciate, and am grateful for, my talent. It’s just I think music is a gift to lift the world.
You can be sitting in a plush state of the art concert hall listening to a world-class orchestra or lying in a sleeping bag on a rough old Greek ferry listening to someone strum their guitar, and the feeling is the same. It lifts your spirits, enriches the whole experience and stirs every emotion.
I can still hear the young guy playing his guitar and singing softly to the stars one summer night way back in 1974 as I lay in my sleeping bag on the deck of a ferry bound for Greece from Italy. I eventually went back to live in Athens for six years and have lots of memorable Greek music moments. Not to mention the umpteen concerts I was lucky enough to go to while there, like Jose Feliciano or Van Morrison. But that simple guitar always comes back to me with a stirring of travel excitement.
Mention 4th of July and I go back to 1986 in Ibiza with Sasha. Lee and I were living on our 30-foot sailboat in the Mediterranean. Our celebration was a small BBQ on the rocky wall of a deserted, unfinished harbour when this large Russian clutching a bottle of vodka walked up. He asked politely what we were doing, then
announced he would join us for our 4th July BBQ regardless of the fact we hadn’t invited him. He grinned, “Russian, American, who cares. We can drink together.”
He ate the ribs and salads as he drank his bottle of vodka. We learned he was an opera singer from Moscow and, for some reason he never explained, had disgraced himself. He was wandering around Europe to console himself. The sun got lower, Sasha got drunker. He suddenly threw his head back and started to sing. My God, he hadn’t lied about his voice. It was powerful and magnificent. He sang for about 10 minutes. Then he stopped, had a swig and started weeping, “Oh! poor Sasha, poor Sasha,” he wailed before blabbering in Russian for a minute or two. He took another swig before singing again. The singing was heart stopping. Our own private opera as we watched the soft twilight fade to moonlight on the gentle sea swells. The weeping and wailing added to the atmosphere really. So it continued for some time then abruptly he got up and staggered off. We never saw  him again. But what a gift he had given us that 4th July on the rocky edge of a ‘nearly-finished’ harbour wall. Pure magic.
Every country has a unique musical tradition. No one can say “thank you” the way the Zulu’s do, they sing to you. I worked with the Amandwe Support Group a couple of years ago on landscapes. Afterwards they made tea and we sat together. Then they said, we will sing for you. Even thinking about it brings tears. Singing is pure Africa and just hearing a snippet of it can make me homesick quicker than the thought of Africa’s vistas or the special scent of her earth.
My time in New Orleans was deeply involved in it’s music - and that’s why I wish I could join musicians and play or sing. I’m a huge fan of “Playing for Change,” watching their videos brings all those special musical moments back. And I do believe people can interconnect through music more than any other medium. It can make the world a better place if we let it, and if we really listen to it. And, damn, but it can just make you smile. I"ll always love music and the happy memories it brings. But I guess I’ll just have to keep painting unless some miracle happens!!
Listen to what I mean and get hooked. Go to and follow them on face book at